Five Key Battles: West Ham vs. Stoke
Jonathan Walters vs. Aaron Cresswell
Aaron Cresswell’s importance to West Ham’s offensive efforts has further magnified since returning to the starting line-up in his new wing-back role. The England international’s threat on the overlap has been a defining feature of the Hammers’ attacking play over the last few seasons, but he’s now their solitary outlet on the left-hand side and will need the energy to continue providing width whilst not leaving the channel between himself and the centre-back too far open.
But if there’s one Premier League wide-man almost tailor-made to combat a gifted wing-back, it’s Stoke City’s Jonathan Walters. The Irishman is renowned for his industriousness and with Marko Arnautovic suspended, he looks certain to come into the starting XI. He’s got the legs and the determination to track Cresswell back, whilst his threat at the far post could well decide the match if the West Ham man overlooks his defensive duties.